The Canterbury Tales: The Reeve's Tale
by Geoffrey Chaucer
The Canterbury Tales: The Reeve's Tale Violence Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Line). We used the line numbering found on Librarius's online edition.
And by the throte-bolle he caughte Aleyn,
And he hente hym despitously agayn,
And on the nose he smoot hym with his fest.
Doun ran the blody streem upon his brest.
(419 – 422)
This passage could be straight out of a romance, in which fights between knights and monsters were often described in gory, bloody language, with every detail of every wound discussed in minute detail. That this fight occurs because of stolen corn, mistaken identity, and sex with "wenches" (the tale's word, not ours) heightens the parody of the tale, the way it is mocking other literary conventions.
They walwe as doon two pigges in a poke;
And up they goon, and doun agayn anon,
Til that the millere sporned at a stoon,
And doun he fil bakward upon his wyf.
(424 – 427)
Any similarity to a description of a fight from a romance (see above) disappears with the line "they walwe as doon two pigges in a poke." Now Aleyn and Symkyn just seem ridiculous. Their motion "up and doun" links their fight to a sex act, the culmination of the "foreplay" that occurred when Aleyn crept into Symkyn's bed by mistake.
But as she saugh a whit thyng in hir ye.
And whan she gan this white espye,
She wende the clerk hadde wered a volupeer,
And with the staf she drow ay neer and neer,
And wende han hit this Aleyn at the fulle,
And smoot the millere on the pyled skulle,
That doun he gooth, and cride, 'Harrow! I dye!'
(447 – 453)
What happens here is that Symkyn's wife mistakes him for one of the clerks because the white of his bald skull matches the white of a cap one of them was wearing. This is the wife's second mistaken identity in the tale. The irony is that she has sex with the man she should hit, and hits the man she should have sex with.